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UPDATE: Extending commentary regarding Pixel Shader 3.0 and Vertex Shader 3.0 support by Microsoft DirectX 9 API.

A report over German web-site suggests that the next-generation graphics processors from ATI Technologies currently kept under wraps and due sometime in April or March will not sport Pixel Shaders 3.0 and Vertex Shaders 3.0 – features that many considered as the main innovation of this year’s graphics chips.

Apparently, the Markham, Ontario-based graphics company decided to concentrate on delivering ultimate performance in applications that rely on Pixel and Vertex Shader 2.0 and lower. The source believes it is possible to expect R420/R423 visual processing units to deliver doubled geometry performance over the previous high-end products from ATI Technologies. Core-clock and architectural enhancements of the part are also projected to pump up the speed of the R420 heavily compared to the RADEON 9800-series offerings.

According to previously released information, the ATI code-named R420/R423 graphics processors will contain about 160 million of transistors and will be produced using low-k 0.13 micron technology at TSMC. The chips are projected to utilize the current R300 architecture, but with general improvements in performance. The upcoming VPUs’ 8 rendering pipelines with unknown number of TMUs as well as 6 vertex shader engines along with new FSAA and anisotropic filtering patterns are said to be the key drivers of the speed upwards.

While the RADEON 9800-series contains a number of improvements in Pixel Shaders functionality over the RADEON 9700 family, dubbed F-Buffer technology, and it is possible to expect ATI to add support for some innovative features among Pixel Shader and Vertex Shader processing into the R420 and its successors, it is pretty clear that those capabilities will hardly be widely utilized.

Historically graphics chip companies put in additional capabilities exceeding DirectX  specifications into their graphics processor not just in order to prolong the lifespan of the their products, but to implement a number of specific features not directly related to PC gaming.

ATI Technologies’ arch-rival NVIDIA’s upcoming NV40 GPU is projected to handle both Pixel and Vertex Shaders 3.0 functionality and also deliver significantly higher performance compared to the company’s current offerings.

It is not clear whether Microsoft supports Pixel Shaders 3.0 and Vertex Shaders 3.0 by its HLSL compiler or not, but their functionality have been enabled since the initial DirectX 9.0 release; in any case, NVIDIA is very likely to promote the new capabilities among game and professional applications developers. Unofficial sources suggest that a new version of Microsoft HLSL supporting Shaders 3.0 capabilities will be out around mid-year. Given that both NV50 and R500 processors are most likely to support Pixel Shaders 4.0 and Vertex Shaders 4.0 as well as all previous versions of DirectX shaders, support for innovative capabilities may really prolong the lifespan of NVIDIA’s next-generation NV40 graphics processing unit. However, there are no games announced that utilise Pixel Shaders 3.0 or Vertex Shaders 3.0 this year.

Officials from ATI Technologies did not comment on the report.


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